Nicki is an Assistant Practitioner in Bone Densitometry at Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust
Tell us about your role and the impact it has on those work with
As a Bone Densitometry Technician, my role is to perform Bone Mineral Density scans for patients within a certain criterion, for example a person who has sustained a fragility fracture or is taking a particular medication that can affect bones. These scans are looking for a condition called osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) which is silent and unknown until we start to fracture our bones. The scan is very simple and can accurately assess the degree of osteoporosis. The results are sent to the referring clinician who then makes a decision as to how to treat the patient (if needed) in order to significantly reduce their fracture risk. Patients who fall and break a bone often lose self-confidence; screening patients avoids this saves the NHS money from future hospital visits due to fractures, especially more serious fractures such as the hips- these have a significant impact on the patient and their quality of life.
What attracted you to a role as a support worker?
After working within the radiology department as secretarial support for more than 10 years I was offered the opportunity to become more involved clinically, and I started off chaperoning patients for clinics and thereafter found the Bone Density department extremely interesting. This role has a broad spectrum, it also involves a good amount of nutritional knowledge and an extensive knowledge in a range of medications, both of which are ever growing.
How has training and development in your role been helpful?
The Royal Osteoporosis Society offers the training for Bone Densitometry Technicians and alike, the courses are extremely thorough and intensive and constantly updated and revised ensuring I am up to date with the latest information and giving me the tools to perform my role with confidence and competence.
The training for the equipment is provided by Hologic and this is usually done at 6 monthly intervals. My work is checked and discussed and if there are any points to be addressed this is done by the software applications manager. The training is very intense and high degree of accuracy is expected. I look at this positively in respect of if it were myself having the exam I would want the operator to be confident their role and display the appropriate knowledge necessary, I feel the training I receive gives me all these commodities.
What are you most proud of in your role?
What makes me proud in my role is ensuring the patient is looked after for the entire duration of their exam and that their experience is a positive one. Many patients who come for these scans are a touch nervous as it is something new for them. I feel happy to put them at ease and enjoy explaining the process to them.
What would you say to encourage others into a role as a support worker with AHPs?
I would encourage others to become support workers if this is something you really want, I would say go for it without a doubt. Yes it may be difficult at times, it may also be very challenging and you may want to throw up your hands and give up, I have entertained all those thoughts! Each day offers something new and usually better which negates any negative challenges or difficulties. It took me 3 years to complete the clinical training along with many courses and time at Birmingham University completing the nationally recognised Bone Density training. Seven years later I am still in the role and still glad I had the determination to do this.